According to a report prepared for Australia’s National Transport Commission in 2016, the country’s national freight task is more than 700 billion tonne-kilometres every year, of which rail freight accounts for about half. The report notes that the vast majority of rail freight comprises bulk commodities transported over long distances, including iron ore and coal (accounting for about 80 per cent) as well as grains, sugars, mineral sands, fertilisers and other commodities.
On long-haul freight, typically for commodities travelling to seaports, transport economics is a critical consideration and, typically, rail is increasingly more competitive than road haul as distance increases.
On the face of it, this represents an impressive set of facts and information. But it also highlights some of the critical challenges faced by the rail freight sector in meeting the rail freight haul challenge, particularly in highly competitive commodity markets.
Bulk goods and commodities are typically highly sensitive to supply chain costs, particularly haulage. It includes direct costs of haulage, logistics management and compliance costs. In a price-sensitive environment with long hauls, even small shifts in either unit or gross costs can have a significant impact on profitability. Some of those costs are not able to be controlled, for example, fuel. Therefore, bulk goods and commodity producers are quite rightly highly sensitive to those cost factors in the haulage component of the supply chain, which can be controlled by the freight service provider.
Added to this challenge is the logistics and systems complexity that can apply to these long haul freight tasks. For example, marrying up transport weights and volume at either end of the supply chain and maximising haul efficiency while minimising variable costs like fuel and labour, as well as load compliance risk.
Consequently, achieving integration, synergies and efficiencies through the supply chain to gain incremental improvements is increasingly essential – but also increasingly achievable with the right expert systems, equipment and advice in place.
To exceed customer expectations and provide a genuine partnership experience, rail freight service providers need to be considering how and where they can introduce improvements to address issues such as:
- Seamless integration of product weight and volume data between loading and unloading of goods.
- Management of tare distribution and optimising axle and bogey loads to ensure the most efficient haulage outcome.
- Minimising regulatory compliance risk and maximising safety outcomes.
- Minimising downtime and costs associated with unnecessary repair and maintenance due to poor loading.
With so many factors to consider, it makes sense to consider expert advice on how best to achieve the most appropriate integrated solutions for your rail freight challenge. Whether it is weighing and data management systems, bogey balancing technology or approaches to integrating your processes with your customers, Trakblaze is a recognised expert in the design and delivery of sophisticated, integrated freight weighing solutions.